Teaching Standard or Global English?

Standard or Global?

English has now acquired the title of the world’s leading global language  because it is used for business, science, and politics. Using the word “English” , I don’t mean an agreed upon standard English, the one used in the United States or Britain. In fact, it is misleading to think that these are the only varieties of English that exist. One cannot exclude, for example the English used in India, Singapore, Nigeria as being “non-English” forms of English. There are even other varieties of English that emerged with the expansion of  world-wide business, commerce and politics. So which forms of English should EFL and ESL teachers instruct?

Standard English

The term “Standard English” suggests that we all have the same insight of exactly what this means.However, this term is not easy to define. There is no world recognized governing body that dictates what should and should not be included in such a standard. Nevertheless we can detect some common features:

  • the variety most widely accepted, understood, and perhaps valued within an English-speaking country.
  • the community decides what is acceptable and what is not, what is correct usage and what is not.

These features don’t give us a clear view of what is standard English.

Even if we know exactly what the term is and have a clear view of the accepted norms for standard English other problems emerge for us as teachers.

  • Standard English is a native-speaker model which may be unattainable for many second language learners. Therefore, it may be unrealistic to use a native-speaker model for language learners.
  • Insisting on Standard English can devalue other varieties of English that exist around the world.
  • Teaching Standard English may promote discrimination. Some employers, for example, may discriminate against speakers of American English or Irish English. having a certain accent instead of another one may be an implicit code for race or ethnicity

Global English

Global English includes all other varieties of English instead of limiting it to one standard form. Kachru (1985) categorizes the usage of English into three concentric circles:

  • The inner circle which includes the English used in such places as the USA, Britain, Australia
  • The outer circle which includes the English used in countries perviously colonized by users of the inner circle. Examples of these countries are Nigeria, India…
  • The expanding circle which includes such countries as China, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and Israel… where English is used mainly for business and international purposes.

As you can see the use of English has expanded world-wide and it is inconceivable to limit our teaching practices to the standard form of English, the one uses in “the inner circle”.

Which English variety to teach?

A more realistic approach would take a global view of the use of English. EFL and ESL teachers need to take the following points into consideration:

  • The Context
    Considering  teaching context is paramount. Teachers should target the English variety according to this context.
  • Valuing
    Teachers should value learners’ current English usage.
  • International English Usage
    Teachers need to prepare learners for future international English encounters by exposing them to other varieties of English
  • Cultural Tolerance
    Learners should be initiated to accept and tolerate cultural differences.
  • Strategic Competence
    Any teaching practices should include teaching learners strategic competence. This is important as it will help them interact with speakers of other varieties of English.


In order to better prepare students for the global world, teachers should consider local context and promote tolerance of cultural differences.


Kachru, B.B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quirk and H. Widdowson (Eds.), English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures (pp. 11-36). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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